Climbing the ladder

#Norristolainen. What more can you say about him?

Rasmus Ristolainen has been on fire as of late with 12 points in his last eight games, two of which were game-winners.

Friday night’s victory over the New York Islanders capped off a four-game homestand in which the Sabres earned six out of a possible eight points.

The Sabres have a very important stretch of hockey over the next two weeks. They’re facing Eastern Conference opponents and could very well put themselves in a good position moving forward.

With Friday’s win, the Sabres moved up three spots in the Eastern Conference, passing the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils.

Take a look at the Eastern Conference standings:

TEAMGPRECPTS
Atlantic Division Leaders:
2118-3-036
2212-5-529
2011-5-426
Metropolitan Division Leaders:
2117-4-034
2214-8-028
2211-6-527
Wild Card Leaders:
2012-7-125
2111-7-325
------------------------------------
2210-8-424
2111-9-123
2010-8-222
229-10-321
217-9-519
219-12-018
207-12-115
207-12-115
Central Division Leaders:
2112-5-428
1912-6-125
1811-6-123
Pacific Division Leaders:
2216-5-133
SEATTLE2012-5-327
2312-9-226
Wild Card Leaders:
2111-10-022
219-9-321
------------------------------------
2010-10-020
209-8-220
209-9-220
197-9-317
207-10-317
237-13-317
206-10-416
216-14-113

The Metropolitan division in extremely strong right now. Five teams have at least 40 points. In the Atlantic Division, Montreal has 42 points and no one is close. The Ottawa Senators are in second with 35 points.

This is a big opportunity for the Sabres to take advantage of the weak division that they’re in. It’s not going to be easy, but with a 12-11-6 record, they’re not far from one of those top three spots in the division, which guarantee a spot in the postseason.

Buffalo trail the Boston Bruins, who are 3rd in the Atlantic Division, by 5 points, and the Sabres have three games in hand.

The Sabres and Bruins are also scheduled to play a home-and-home set at the end of the month. Beating Tuukka Rask has been an issue so far this season, but they are getting healthier and playing better hockey. The Bruins have already taken the first two games of the season series by scores of 4-0 and 2-1.

A win tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes would be big. It may sound unusual for a game in December, but it would keep the Sabres climbing up the ladder.

A win tonight would move the Sabres up two more spots, past Carolina and the Tampa Bay Lightning. With the Bruins having the day off, Buffalo would move within three points of the Bruins.

Of course, a win is easier said than done. Friday’s win didn’t exemplify a great performance, but they found a way to get two points out of it.

Over the last couple of weeks, things have been trending upwards for the Sabres. Since Jack Eichel’s return, the Sabres are 5-2-1.

Zach Bogosian and Taylor Fedun are nearing return, and this team is as close to 100% health as they’ve been all season.

Tonight’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Kevin Freiheit
Kevin Freiheit
I founded Buffalo Hockey Central in 2008 and have poured hours and hours into this site. Luckily, we have a great team of writers and designers who have helped keep this up and running despite a ton of out-of-pocket costs. We do this because we enjoy it, and we're desperate to see the Sabres win the Cup someday, but they have to make the playoffs first.
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